This turtle has the coolest tech in town.
According to the Maryland Zoo, an injured wild Eastern box turtle was recently discovered at nearby Druid Hill Park by a zoo employee. Worried that the half-shell wouldn’t make it on his own, the employee brought the turtle to Maryland Zoo’s hospital.
“He had multiple fractures on his plastron, the bottom part of his shell. Because of the unique placement of the fractures, we faced a difficult challenge with maintaining the turtle’s mobility while allowing him to heal properly,” Dr. Ellen Bronson, senior director of animal health, conservation and research at the zoo, said in a statement.
The veterinarians at the zoo hospital came up with a creative solution to the unique fractures. Using metal bone plates, sewing clasps and surgical wire, the vets were able stabilize the turtle’s fragile, broken shell so it had a chance to heal.
Unfortunately, for everything to heal correctly, the turtle’s shell cannot touch the ground.Since they don’t make turtle wheelchairs (yet!), the veterinary team had to come up with some extra-special wheels.
“We drew some sketches of a customized wheelchair and I sent them to a friend who is a LEGO® enthusiast,” said Garrett Fraess, a veterinary extern at the Maryland Zoo.
The LEGO® lover came through, using the specs provided to create a custom, colorful wheelchair that perfectly fits the grapefruit-sized turtle.
“The small LEGO® frame surrounds his shell and sits on four LEGO® wheels. Plumbers putty attaches the device to the edges of the turtle’s upper shell, which gets him off of the ground and allows his legs to be freed up so he can move,” Fraess added.
Moving hasn’t been a problem for the healing turtle: he instantly took to the new contraption and has been rolling around the zoo.
In typical turtle fashion, these animals are slow to heal. The temporary zoo resident will likely remain at the facility’s hospital and on his wheels until the spring.
Once this turtle is all patched up, he will be released back into the wild.